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Boost and Overdrive

Pedal Mania - Tone Anxiety Pt 2

12 Degrees of SaturationBig Muff Style FuzzBitcrushing and Lo-FiBlues Driver Style OverdriveBoostBoost and OverdriveBossBrown Sound DistortionChase Bliss AudioCompressorCryBabyDelayDelay WorkstationDiezelDigital DelayDigiTechDistortionDouble TrackingDr ScientistDriveDual-DriveDumble Style OverdriveDunlop EffectsEmpress EffectsEQFriedman EffectsFulltone EffectsFuzzJHS PedalsKeeley EngineeringKlone and Transparent OverdriveMad Professor EffectsMarshall Style DistortionMetal DistortionModulationModulation WorkstationMooerMulti-DriveNoise GateOCD Style OverdriveOctaverOneControlOverdrivePedal ManiaPedalboard and Pedal-ChainPitchPitch-ShiftingRat Style FuzzReverbStrymonTC ElectronicTone AnxietyToneQuestTremoloTubescreamer Style OverdriveTunersUtilityWah and Fixed WahWamplerXotic Effects+-
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UPDATE - Game Changer! Boss launches MD-500 and RV-500 Strymon-killers - with dual split channel effects - more in a later blog!


As you might expect, and not long after I delightedly announced the completion of Phase 1 of the Pedal Chain, I was already working on Phase 2 and beyond. In fact, in my usual manner - Phase 2 is a little more complex and detailed - with a real overview of the key pedal decision-making choices available.


One of the most remarkable being the ousting of my beloved Strymon TimeLine by the amazing Empress EchoSystem. Of course the more you do this sort of thing, the more you realise what is out there in every corner of this world, and brands and pedals you weren’t even aware of existing become noticed. This can of course be a somewhat excruciating process of questioning and self-doubt - proper post-purchase-dissonance territory. But part of me really enjoys the process of seeking and weighing up the alternatives.


2017 has yielded some excellent innovations - several of which have found a home in my chain already, and several which are currently likely to be added. You of course don’t know for sure until that moment happens. I also find it quite strange just how long a pedal takes to materialise which was announced ’ready’ at the Winter NAMM show in January - quite a few are still being eagerly awaited, with no recent announcements or updates - all quite strange to me really.


There is also an ongoing process of favouritism where pedals fall in and out of favour, and can rise again. I am always on the look out for versatility, innovation and smart form-factor (as well as tone obviously) - so that if someone does something clever at a smaller size or smarter form-factor, I am more likely to check that out versus something approaching the size of a briefcase. Smaller is generrally better, but not always - especially if one of those larger pedals manages to replace 5 or 10 other ones.


As already mentioned, the acquisition process is quite fluid, and can be influenced significantly by availability and pricing fluctuations. I have found myself buying quite a few pedals on as they just weren’t available in the UK. There were UK stockists - but these had not had said pedal/s in stock for months / years. Some even were still listed as distributors but had none of those products.


So there is a lot of logistics involved - as is certainly the case with many of the more boutique-style pedals which get made in rather short-order batches, or even just made-to-order. And when ordering from the USA - you need to be aware of transit / delivery times and customs charges. I find Canada (Electric Mojo Guitars in particular) to be a really good option - with keen pricing and delivery here to London in just 5 days sometimes; also mustn’t forget Johnny Balmer of Alchemy Audio - both have Reverb store fronts as referenced.


Note that I am still reasonably far from possessing everything pictured above, let alone all the orange highlights below - these pedals are acquired on an additive basis of around 1 or 2 or so a month - also depending on pricing obviously. There is the added consideration required for power supply and patch cables. Having updated both fairly recently - To power all 30 slots though with clean power, I likely need at least one more box!


I largely use the below list as a checklist / control sheet - to hone and firm up my decision-making process - as I stated previously, the process is fluid and most pedal companies don’t make advance notices of what’s forthcoming - so you often get pleasantly surprised along the way and can head off in quite a different direction. Those surprises then need to be factored into the decision process - and you need to decide whether the newcomers pose a threat to your existing hierarchy.


There are several perennials here - which remain strong, and look unlikely to be unseated, but you never really know. For instance I am still looking forward to / hoping that Strymon will bring out a large Overdrive / Fuzz / Distortion workstation pedal (a la Mobius, TimeLine and BigSky) - so that I can simplify those parts of my chain. To do something truly satisfactory though they will really need to use more analogue components for different circuits and clipping stages, versus just DSP-ing singular JFET analogue transistors as they have done for the Riverside and Sunset. I am largely done with Drive pedals for now, and am concentrating on slightly weirder effects and noise-makers!


The list is colour-coded with current favourite per slot indicated in green and back-up alternatives in amber / orange - some of which I possess, and many of which I have still to acquire. I only list alternatives where I am likely to switch out pedals relatively regularly. Some slots are of course more fixed than others and a lot less prone to change.


Happy reading!:


Principal Active Pedal = Green

Alternative/s for switching = Amber - in order of personal preference - note that no amber option for slot indicates overwhelming preference for active pedal


Slot 1 - Tuner

a] TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Noir
b] Sonic Research ST-300 Mini
c] Korg Pitchblack Poly
d] Peterson Stomp Classic
e] Boss TU-3


Slot 2 - Pitch Modulation

a] Crybaby Mini Wah
b] DigiTech FreqOut Feedback Simulator
c] DigiTech Whammy Ricochet
d] DigiTech Whammy DT
e] EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machines
f] Electro-Harmonix Pog


Slot 3 - Booster

a] Xotic EP Booster Alchemy Mod
b] TC Electronic Spark Mini Boost

c] Wampler db+ Boost / Buffer

d] JHS Mini Bomb Boost
e] Keeley Mini Katana Boost
f] Fulltone 2B Booster


Slot 4 - Compressor

a] Wampler Mini Ego

b] Xotic SP Compresson Alchemy Mod
c] PigTronix Philosopher’s Tone Micro
d] TC Electronic Hypergravity Mini
e] Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe
f] Keeley Compressor Plus


Slot 5 - Transparent Overdrive / Klon

a] Wampler Tumnus
b] Elecro-Harmonix Soul Food JHS Mod
c] TC Electronic MojoMojo
d] J Rockett Rockaway Archer
e] Tone City Bad Horse


Slot 6 - Bitcrusher / Pitchshifter / Synth -Modulation

a] Dr Scientist BitQuest

b] TC Electronic Sub ’n’ Up Octaver
c] DigiTech DirtyRobot

d] EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander
e] Iron Ether FrantaBit
f] EarthQuaker Devices Organizer
g] Electro-Harmonix Synth 9

h] Eventide PitchFactor


Slot 7 - Tube Screamer / Mid Boost Overdrive

a] OneControl Persian Green Screamer
b] Ibanez Tube Screamer Mini

c] Keeley Red Dirt Mini
d] Ibanez TS-808
e] Maxon OD-808
f] Mooer Green Mile
g] Wampler Clarksdale
h] OneControl Strawberry Red


Slot 8 - Dumble-esque Overdrive

a] Wampler Euphoria
b] Mad Professor Simble (or Twimble)
c] OneControl Golden Acorn Overdrive Special
d] J Rockett The Dude
e] LovePedal Hermida Audio Zendrive
f] Mooer Rumble Drive


Slot 9 - Blues Driver Overdrive

a] Mooer Blues Mood
b] Keeley Super Phat Mod
c] Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Keeley Mod
d] Nobels ODR-1 Overdrive

e] EWS Little Brute Drive


Slot 10 - Crunch Overdrive

a] Fulltone OCD Overdrive
b] Fulltone Plimsoul Overdrive
c] Mooer Hustle Drive
d] OneControl Lingonberry Overdrive
e] Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret


Slot 11 - Digital DSP Overdrive + Distortion

a] Strymon Riverside Multistage Drive
b] Source Audio L.A. Lady
c] Positive Grid Bias Distortion


Slot 12 - EVH / Brown Sound

a] Mad Professor 1 Distortion
b] Keeley Filaments Distortion
c] OneControl Anodized Brown Distortion
d] Wampler Pinnacle Distortion
e] MXR EVH 5150 Overdrive
f] TC Electronic Dark Matter
g] PigTronix Micro Disnortion


Slot 13 - Dual Fuzz / Overdrive

a] Chase Bliss Brothers Analog Gain Stage
b] Elektron Analog Drive


Slot 14 - Fuzz

a] JHS Muffaletta
b] EWS Little Fuzzy Drive
c] EarthQuaker Devices Erupter
d] OneControl Baltic Blue
e] Zvex Fuzzolo
f] Rainger FX Dr Freakenstein’s Dwarf Bitch
g] LovePedal Bonetender


Slot 15 - Fuzz-Drive

a] Dr Scientist Frazz Dazzler
b] SubDecay Harmonic Antagonizer
c] McSpunckle Gnomeratron VTF
d] Zvex Fuzz Factory 7
e] BYOC Li’l Mouse
f] ProCo Rat (Various)
g] Mooer Black Secret


Slot 16 - Octave Fuzz

a] Fulltone Octafuzz

b] TC Electronic Sub ’n’ Up Octaver (earlier in chain)

c] EarthQuaker Devices Bit Commander

d] Chicago Iron Octavian
e] EarthQuaker Devices Fuzz Master General
f] MXR M103 Blue Box


Slot 17 - Dual Overdrive / Multidrive

a] Strymon Sunset Dual Delay

b] Empress Multidrive

c] Foxpedal The City V2
d] Foxpedal Kingdom Combo V2
e] Empress Heavy
f] EarthQuaker Devices Gray Channel
g] T-Rex Dual Drive


Slot 18 - Plexi Drive

a] Xotic SL Drive
b] OneControl Purple Plexifier
c] LovePedal Purple Plexi
d] Wampler Plexi Drive
e] Tone City Golden Plexi


Slot 19 - Heavy Plexi Drive

a] Friedman BE-OD
b] Friedman Dirty Shirley
c] Seymour Duncan Palladium


Slot 20 - Chug

a] Wampler Dracarys
b] Wampler Triple Wreck
c] Goosoniqueworx 7thvn
d] Amptweaker FatMetal Pro


Slot 21 - Extreme

a] Diezel VH4 MKI
b] Diezel VH4 MKII
c] Rockfabrik Mind Abuse
d] Goosoniqueworx Kult


Slot 22 - Noise Gate

a] Boss NS-2 Alchemy Mod
b] TC Electronic Sentry
c] MXR M135 Smart Gate


Slot 23 - EQ

a] Boss GE-7 EQ Alchemy Mod
b] Source Audio Programmable EQ
c] Empress Para EQ
d] MXR M108 10-band EQ


Slot 24 - Solo Analogue Modulation - aka the mostly Chase Bliss Slot!

a] Chase Bliss Gravitas Analog Tremolo
b] Chase Bliss Spectre Analog TZ Flanger
c] Chase Bliss Wombtone Analog Phaser
d] Chase Bliss Warped Vinyl Analog Vibrato / Chorus

e] Empress Tremolo 2

f] Stone Deaf Tremotron

g] Foxpedal Quiver Harmonic Tremolo


Slot 25 - Modulation WorkStation

a] Boss MD-500

b] Strymon Mobius
b] Eventide Modfactor
c] Keeley Super Mod Workstation
d] Eventide H9
e] Empress Nebulus


Slot 26 - Delay Workstation

a] Empress EchoSystem
b] Strymon TimeLine

c] Boss DD-500

d] Chase Bliss Tonal Recall
e] Source Audio Nemesis
f] Montreal Assembly Count to 5
g] Strymon Dig
h Strymon El Capistan

i] PigTronix Echolution
j] Eventide TimeFactor
k] Keeley Delay Workstation
l] Eventide H9
m] Foxpedal Novaplex
n] TC Electonic Triple Flashback / Flashback 2 etc.

o] Mooer Ocean Machine


Slot 27 - Reverb Workstation

a] Boss RV-500

b] Strymon BigSky
c] Empress Reverb
d] Source Audio Ventris
e] Eventide Space

f] Strymon BlueSky
g] TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2
h Neunaber Immerse Reverberator
i] MXR Reverb
j] Eventide H9


Slot 28 - Reverb 2 / Extra Mod

a] TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2
b] Eventide H9
c] Strymon Lex Rotary
d] Strymon Flint

e] Eventide Pitch Factor


Slot 29 - Signal Doubler

a] TC Electronic Mimiq Doubler
b] Strymon Deco Tape Saturation and Double Tracker
c] Keeley 30ms Automatic Double Tracker
d] Electro-Harmonix PolyChorus


Slot 30 - Looper

a] TC Electronic Ditto X2
b] Electro-Harmonix 720
c] PigTronix Infinity
d] Boss RC-3



Top 10~ Pedal Brands by Ownership

(frequency + alphabetical)

  • TC Electronic (6)
  • Strymon (5)
  • OneControl (4)
  • Wampler (4)
  • Boss (3)
  • Mad Professor (3)
  • Mooer (4)
  • Xotic (3)
  • JHS (2)
  • DigiTech (2)
  • Dr Scientist (2)
  • Dunlop (2)
  • Empress (2)
  • EWS (2)
  • Fulltone (2)
  • Ibanez (2)



Top 10~ Pedal Brands by Mentions

(frequency + alphabetical)

  • Strymon (11)
  • Keeley (9)
  • TC Electronic (9)
  • Wampler (9)
  • Boss (8)
  • Empress (7)
  • OneControl (7)
  • Chase Bliss (6)
  • EarthQuaker Devices (6)
  • Mooer (6)
  • Electro-Harmonix (5)
  • Eventide (5)
  • MXR (5)
  • DigiTech (4)
  • Foxpedal (4)
  • Fulltone (4)
  • Pigtronix (4)
  • Source Audio (4)
  • JHS (3)
  • Lovepedal (3)
  • Xotic (3)



Final Thoughts

It’s interesting to compare Ownership with Mentions, as there are some quite significant differences.


None more so than Keeley really for which I possess just a single pedal so far, but have 9 considerations on the master list. Some people may also question the relative paucity of the most common pedal brands - Boss, MXR and Electro-Harmonix, and EarthQuaker too I suppose - of which I own rather few comparatively.


There’s no doubt that Strymon is my favourite, probably followed by TC Electronic, Wampler, One Control and Chase Bliss. I am also quite evidently a big fan of mini pedals - in particular OneControl, Mooer and Xotic.


There are some very binary decisions here - e.g. Strymon vs Eventide for the big pedals. Price is obviously a significant factor, as is footprint. I am likely to acquire an Eventide H9 Max though at some stage in the future.


Many will look at the size of the pedal chain somewhat aghast, but should know what I use all those pedals regularly - and if any fails to be used regularly it is relegated - pure and simple. It took a very long time to arrive at the aforementioned 30 slot limit, which is of course a maximum - I would like to think I could simplify this significantly over the coming years. I would not want to sacrifice too much of the versatility - remember also that this is for home studio use, and not intended to be taken on the road - which is why I always refer to it as a pedal-chain vs a pedalboard.


I would of course be interested to hear your thoughts on all of this - in a constructive manner, and knowing that all of us have different ears and different personal preferences - one man’s delicacy or delight can be another man’s nausea! All opinions shared here are my own, and are unencumbered by commercial relationships, gifts or bribes.



Post Script

Today - June 23rd Boss has just gone for Strymon’s jugular with two Strymonesque workstations - Modulation and Reverb funnily enough - to compete head-to-head with the Strymon Trifecta of Mobius, Timeline and BigSky. It was a big surprise that the Empress EchoSystem knocked out the TimeLine, but after seeing Rabea’s demos of the MD-500 and RV-500 I am pretty convinced that these will in time unseat my Mobius and BigSky. The Reverb in particular is genius allowing you not only to assign a delay to each reverb effect, but to double up reverbs and split them by left / right channel - much like the EchoSystem does,


I really love my new EchoSystem pedal, but much of it’s charm is now carried in the new Boss workstations - giving guitarists unprecedented powerful effects and with extraordinary routing options. For my stereo rig, the RV-500 Reverb and MD-500 Modulation look perfect swap-outs for the Strymons.


I still love my Strymon pedals and will of course be keeping them, but Strymon will have to innovate to keep up. The Boss’s screen is more useful than the Strymons’ - I would probably have liked more surface dials - so I could have more of an Empress-like pedal relationship. One weakness none of these have manged to cover off is the labelling of the two flexible parameter dials / thing 1/2 etc. I would have thought they could have used a similar system to Line 6 Helix to display exactly what is being controlled by those dials. Having to remember every kind of variation is too long a learning experience for most - and nearly all of us hate manuals.


When the Boss DD-500 delay came out I was not particularly captivated - it passed me by for some reason. Now it has updated firmware and more of the kind of functionality of the two newer pedals. I’m not looking to unseat the EchoSystem any time soon, but I will now keep and open mind for the DD-500 and check it out more thoroughly next time I come across it.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
Guitar Pedal X
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